More than 140 children were ritually killed in a single event in Peru more than 500 years ago. What could possibly have been the reason?
Evidence for the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history—has been discovered on Peru’s northern coast, archaeologists tell National Geographic.
More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire.
The children are reported to have all been between five and 14 at the time of death, although the majority of the children were between eight and 12 at the time of their alleged sacrifice. The llamas were all less than 18 months old at their time of death.
While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world.
The sacrifice site, formally known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is located on a low bluff just a thousand feet from the sea, amid a growing spread of cinderblock residential compounds in Peru’s northern Huanchaco district. Less than half a mile to the east of the site is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chan Chan, the ancient Chimú administrative center, and beyond its walls, the modern provincial capital of Trujillo.
As for why the sacrifice took place, that still remains unclear. Evidence in the mud from the site suggest the sacrifices may have occurred during a period of serious flooding. The flooding could have disrupted fishing in the area and brought extreme hardship to the people.